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The Passive Voice, the easy way!

BY: Mubarak

Abdessalami

It is true that the passive voice is most talked about by our students. I think we can go
beyond the formal grammar rules and deal with it in the funniest way. That's -between us- a sort
of word games. Let's enjoy talking about the passive voice in the absence of Mr R.G.R (Rigid
Grammar Rule). We will be back biters for a while, yet I hope in the benefit of both The Passive
Voice and our students.
Let's make one of the old so missed rules our starting point. The rule says: the object of
the active sentence is always the subject of the passive one. But before all let's see what does the
active sentence look like before the operation then go to discuss the process the doctor follows
during the operation and examine the patient after the operation. It is not an easy work to do, I
admit it.
<<The passive voice of any transitive verb is made by combining its past participle with
the appropriate tense of the verb "to be" >>, the teacher said. He means that the verb to be is
always the doctor who can operate on the sentence successfully in a "passive voice" surgery.
Take this so called the patient active sentence, for instance,
Someone plays the piano every night
This sentence is composed of a subject: (someone), a verb: (plays), and an object. And
the latter is the organ that gears the whole operation. It is the most important part of the utterance
to make the operation feasible.
What we have to do first is to pull the object down to begin our new sentence with.
The piano............
After that we prepare the verb to be for the operation. The verb is going to be the patient. We
make a quick diagnostic to look for two essential things about it; that's to say the verb itself: play
and its tense: the simple present. This should not take time; it is a matter of a fraction of a second.
What for?! The tense should be taken to the verb plays and given to "to be". Thus the verb "to be
" in the simple present is am, is, or are. It is our new subject which decides on the best choice. In
this case, "The piano" must logically choose is because it is the most suitable for it. No doubt our
sentence in the passive will progress this way,
The piano is..........
Now the verb play goes directly to take the past participle form i.e.: played because it is a
regular verb. Thus we reach,
The piano is played........
Is it necessary to add anything? Yes, it is. We shouldn't forget about the adverb of time "every
night" to finally have,
The piano is played every night.
However (by someone) is not correct at all because the agent or (the doer) is not known and is
adding no information to the sentence. On the contrary, if the agent is "Bach" for instance we
have to mention him. Compare,

ACTIVE VOICE: Someone plays the piano every night.


PASSIVE VOICE: The piano is played every night. (Or)
Every night, the piano is played.
And
ACTIVE VOICE: Bachir plays the piano every night.
PASSIVE VOICE: The piano is played by Bachir every night. (Or)
Every night, the piano is played (by Bachir).
The agent however is not to be mentioned because its effect on the information that the Passive
sentence transmits is almost null.
Here is another example, but this time in a different tense: The present progressive tense.
ACTIVE VOICE: The student is reading the page.
PASSIVE VOICE: The page is being read (by the student)
If you have learnt how to transform the sentence from the active to the passive you'll be able to
explain the changes that have occurred on this sentence.
The object is the page the verb "read" is sustained by an auxiliary (is) which should not be
changed unless the subject is in plural.
With the present perfect things look quite easier because even you don't learn the irregular verbs
this form gives you - freeware - past participles of the verbs you need to transform. Take this
sentence for example. What remains to concentrate upon is the insertion of "been" in the right
place. Study these examples:
1. ACTIVE VOICE: The dog has broken the window pane.
PASSIVE VOICE: The window pane has been broken (by the dog).
2. ACTIVE VOICE: The housewife swept the floor.
PASSIVE VOICE: The floor has been swept (by the housewife).
Besides this, when the active sentence is in the future; or any of the modals is used, the passive
sentence seems quite easier to do. The structure is as follows:
[Subject + modal + be + past participle]
The following tables illustrate how the transformation is done:
will
would
can
could
may
might
Halima
mail the letter tomorrow.
shall
should
ought to
must
has to
etc.

The letter will be mailed tomorrow. [N.B: "will" can be replaced by all the other "modals"]
will
would
can
could
may
might
The letter
be mailed tomorrow (by Halima).
shall
should
ought to
must
has to
etc.
If we want to analyze the last sentence we can simply say:
1. The object "the letter" could be "the letters" and nothing changes.
2. The modal comes down after the new subject: The letter will.......
3. The verb "mail" tense is "The infinitive" so "to be" is wearing it to eventually become
"be": The letter will be......
4. The verb "mail" now is converted into the past participle i.e.: mailed:
The letter will be mailed tomorrow.
The agent Halima -let's repeat it- is not needed.
Nevertheless there are some cases that have to be dealt with carefully. When the subject of the
active sentence is "No one", "nobody" or "none", the sentence in the passive form is negative:
Nobody has watered the garden.
In sentences as such, the subject should be discerned and taken into account for fear we should
drop the negative meaning it encloses. If it happens that we take it for a normal subject such as
everybody or someone, we risk missing the inclusion of the negative character of the
sentence.
The garden has not been watered.
As you can see, it is the subject "nobody" which brings about the negation represented by the
word "not" in the sentence.
Moreover, when you have a sentence with two objects, we normally choose the personal
one or at least the direct object. After it depends on the idea you want to stress. In the following
sentence there are two objects. It is the underlined one which is suitable to choose as subject for
your passive sentence/
ACTIVE VOICE: My friend showed her an old manuscript.
PASSIVE VOICE: She was shown an old manuscript.
You can probably say: An old manuscript was shown to her. But as you see it's quite "heavy"
for the ear to bear. The first one then is the most acceptable. Nevertheless, if the speaker wants to

highlight the "old manuscript" because it is the most important element in the informative
sentence, in this case the sentence, though not really authentic, it can carry the meaning intended.
I have to draw your attention to "phrasal verbs" as well. These also can be misleading because of
their prepositions:
ACTIVE VOICE: The red car ran over the dog.
PASSIVE VOICE: The dog was run over (by the red car).
Now, here are some sentences for you in order to practise this "game" of playing on word order
and verb tenses ....The objects are CAPITALIZED to make them easily detectible:
1. People admired YOUR LAST BOOK.
___________________________________
2. Someone is knocking at THE DOOR.
___________________________________
3. She has stolen A CAR.
___________________________________
4. They bought US sandwiches.
___________________________________
5. She hands out THE EXAMPAPERS.
___________________________________
6. They will show YOU my house.
___________________________________
7. Someone could repair THE LORRY.___________________________________
8. He is sweeping THE FLOOR.
___________________________________
9. People must respect THE LAW.
___________________________________
10. People all over the world speak ENGLISH. ___________________________________
11. They have made HIM a headmaster.
___________________________________
12. The gang broke into THE BANK.
___________________________________
13. Someone sent ME a beautiful card.
___________________________________
14. You should do ALL THE EXERCISES.
___________________________________
15. She is looking after MY CHILDREN.
___________________________________
16. They were telling YOUR SON never to ride that bike. ___________________________
17. He has been typing THE LETTER.
___________________________________
KEY

(SEE BELOW)

All in all, I think this list is unlimited. I hope you'll find interesting ideas throughout this quick
presentation of the...

PASSIVE Vs ACTIVE VOICES


First of all, I'd like to draw your attention to a very important point about the passive Voice.
Most students of English take it for granted that the passive voice is just another way of
expressing a sentence in the active voice; which is extremely dangerous, and harmful for the
learning of natural language. It is true that the most important part of our utterances in spoken
and written language are in the passive voice yet this doesn't mean that they all stem from an
active source: Not all the sentences in the active form could be expressed in the passive form
even in school tests. A sentence in the active voice is used in specific circumstances and the
passive one is also needed in other almost completely different situations, i.e. when the active
voice cannot express the idea quite clearly or when it is unnecessary to mention the agent
because it is either unidentified, unknown or common like (someone, people, everybody etc..) or
perhaps without the mentioning of the agent, our sentence might have a greater effect on our
interlocutor. I'll give you a simple example:

Compare these three pairs of sentences:


a. You must not throw rubbish in the river.*
b. Rubbish must not be thrown in the river (by you/everybody).
1. You should correct these mistakes.
2. These mistakes should be corrected. (by you) *
A. You must pay the bill first, (Sir/Madam).
B. The bill must be paid first. (by everybody).*
The examples (a & b) are the same: they express the same idea but the sentence (b) is
more expressive because the speaker doesn't mean you but all people. If I have to choose
between the two, I'll take the sentence (b) though the first also says the same thing. It is a matter
of style and priority. I mean that the sentence in the passive here expresses the idea better than
the same sentence expressed in the active voice.
The examples (1 &2) are the same, too. Yet in this case the active one (1) is far more
expressive than the sentence in the passive (2). Here the speaker does not generalize; YOU not
all the students for instance who should correct those mistakes. Here, sentence (1) is the most
accurate (correct), although the sentence (2) says the same thing but in a very clumsy aberrant
way.
As for the third couple of sentences (A & B), the "You" stands generally for everybody
because it introduces a rule or a law which everybody must respect. Yet the first is less clear in
this sense than the second. You must pay ..." means "You: (Sir or Madam)" personally not
everybody. But the second means that "The bill must be paid" before anything else can be done.
The procedure is to pay the bill first and then go to the next step. You are not the only one
concerned with this rule or law. It is an obligation for everybody.
All in all, the passive voice use is confined with the context. It is the context of a given
situation which systematically dictates the sort of utterance to be used. It's the situation which
decides whether your sentence would be expressive of what you wanted to say in the way you
said it.
The problem with the pronoun "I"
Here is something I want you to concentrate on:
- I bought a new shirt last week.
- I read a book yesterday.
These two sentences for example can never be set in the passive voice even though they have got
objects: a new shirt and a book respectively. Look at them this way:
- A new shirt was bought (by me) last week.*
- A book was read (by me) yesterday.*
I presume that sentences as such are not English at all. They look strange and awkward
because transforming them into the passive is only a grotesque curiosity. They end up in nothing.

A sentence like "I bought a new shirt last week" or "I read a book yesterday" can only be
expressed this way, I mean in the ACTIVE VOICE.
Other examples
1. I can speak English. English can be spoken (by me)*
2. Ahmed likes bananas. Bananas are liked (by Ahmed).*
3. Ali respects his parents. Ali's parents are respected (by him).*
All of these are examples of the category of sentences that are natural and expressive only
when they are used in their ACTIVE form. Once they are put into the PASSIVE, it is simply a
mechanical manoeuvre which only spoils the initial meaning of the sentence. They don't belong
to natural language in any way. In example (1) the agent is me: "I". So why should I use the
passive except for joking. The Active sentences whose agent or (doer) is "I" are completely
meaningless when they are turned into the passive form. Besides this, When the agent is known
like in examples (2) "Ahmed" and (3) "Ali", why then change the sentence into the passive. The
agent is the only concerned one (with liking bananas) on the one hand, and (respecting one's
parents) on the other.

Recapitulation
Not all the active sentences with objects should be altered into the passive just because
they have the most important tool for change, namely the object. Even if the grammatical rule
says that (The object in the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence), we
should be aware of the fact that the language is used to express idea, not to follow rules. Every
rule has Exceptions. And some sentences are never acceptable as passive because they naturally
belong to their active form. We only use the passive form if we guess that the thing receiving the
action (object) should be focused on or it is more important than the thing doing the action
(subject).

By + agent
Now let's talk a little about the (by + agent) students usually like to use at the end of
every "passive" sentence. Any sentence in the passive, which extremely needs (by + agent) at the
end, is more an active than a passive one. In other words, it should absolutely be expressed in the
active form. If the agent were so needed that we had to mention it in the passive sentence using
(by + agent) why not just keep the sentence in the active form and (stop looking for our left ear
with our right hand; the right ear is rather easy to reach [Moroccan Expression]).. The agent (or
the doer) is not needed in the passive sentences otherwise why converting the sentence into the
passive then?! We use the passive sentence basically when the agent or the doer is unknown or a
common agent such as (people, someone, everybody and so on). Sometimes the agent is
accepted to come last in some contexts. In this case the (by + agent) is vital to shed some more
necessary needed meaning to the utterance, but not in all contexts. Look at this example.
When the gravitation law was discovered by Isaac Newton, a new gate in the field of scientific
discoveries opened....
In sentences such as this one the use of (by + agent) is natural. We don't feel that it is forced in.
See this one, too:
When my father was informed (by my mother) that the television set had been turned off by
the cat, he got astonished and didn't just believe it.

In this complex sentence the speaker uses (by + agent) twice, the first seems forced
because the informer here could be any one. It is not the subject matter; whereas the second
seems normal and even necessary because the agent here is the pivot around which the whole
story revolves.
All in all, the passive voice use is more suitable when the agent is vague, unimportant, unknown
or simply doesn't add any meaning to the sentence. That's to say, the sentence will be expressive
without it and that's why we obstinate to mention it at the end of the sentence using the phrase
(by + agent).

Why the passive?

People usually prefer to express themselves or transmit ideas using the passive voice for
many reasons. The major reason, however, is the fact that the "deeds" are more interesting than
the "doers". And when they use the active declarative positive sentences, it is because the doer
really matters. It's like this. Check the examples below:

These Ones
1. "Progress is made in the field of science." (who made the progress? Here the
passive form is more expressive because many parts participate in the making of
the progress in question).
2. "The poem was beautifully written." (Here the speaker is more interested in the
poem than in the poet. He who has written the poem, he has written it in a
beautiful way).
3. "My watch has been stolen." (This is an informative sentence made in the
passive voice because the victim is sorry for his stolen watch and doesn't care
much about the thief because either the agent (thief) is unknown (which is
probably the case here) or the victim of the theft is expressing his sorrow about
the watch he no longer has).
And these
I.SPEAKER 1: "The window pane was broken." (PASSIVE VOICE)
II.SPEAKER 2: "The boy broke the window pane." (ACTIVE VOICE)

In these two sentences the speakers have got different intentions. The first is rather
concerned with the fact that the window pane was broken no matter who had broken it. He is not
really interested in the (doer) that's why he makes "THE WINDOW PANE" his subject (of
interest); whereas the second speaker is accusing the boy of breaking the window pane. He is
more concerned with the agent (doer) than with the fact that the window pane was broken.
Because the first speaker's intention was to talk about the event, he ignores the doer. He
might not be able to identify who the doer was! But in general, we understand that the doer
doesn't matter for him or he would have said "SOMEONE broke the window pane. The
second speaker on the other hand emphasizes the boy as the doer and not anybody else. He
begins the sentence with "The boy" to focus on the accused, (the agent).notably the boy.
From what has been stated above; I guess, now, we can explain why not all sentences in
the active voice can be transformed into the passive and vice versa. Each form (active or passive)
reveals certain meaning which the other cannot, according to one's intentions and matter of
interest.

Now! As we can justify the rule that "NOT ALL ACTIVE SENTENCES ARE
CONVERTIBLE INTO THE PASSIVE", we can easily understand that this rule is referring to
the normal sentences which have the normal structure (Subject + Verb + Object). In what
concerns the Imperative sentences, I'm very doubtful about their flexibility to convey the same
meaning when they are forced into the passive "dress". Still I'll try to show how things may look
like when they are just a group of words gathered together to mean NOTHING. So do please
concentrate on the following...

Imperative
As far as the sentences "Do it" and "Let it be done!" are concerned, The difference is
somehow huge in relation to our topic namely THE PASSIVE VOICE. However, there is
something called the passive reflexive. Here is an example:
ACTIVE: Don't let the others cheat you.
PASSIVE: Don't let yourself be cheated.
But I don't think this has any relationship with what you asked about.
Anyway, Let's first begin from the beginning and have a glance at "Let":
Let it be! means, (allow to be quiet).
Let me be! means (don't worry me). As you can see these expressions are used independently.
They have nothing to do with the passive voice.
1. Before we can tackle this tough problem Let's recapitulate first:
1. To put an active sentence in the passive, we normally need an object which can
shift our attention from the subject being futile. The object should be more
powerful than the subject of the active form so that we could make the transition
into the passive with confidence and make the operation logical and meaningfully
justified:

Someone wrote the message in English.| "Someone" is a common subject


which doesn't deserve its position at the outset of the sentence because it is
futile as a bearer of meaning. It's weak in relation to its position. Thus The
message was written in English is the most recommended because it is
the most suitable.

2. The object should be the center of interest for the speaker:


The problem was solved (by us) thank God. | The agent (us/we) is not the
center of attraction but the problem effectively is. The speaker may be one
of those who solved the problem.
3. Not all active sentences are to be put in the passive voice:
I have a car | This sentence is to be used in its active form but never in the
passive even though it has an object (a car).

4. The choice in the use of either passive or active forms depends on one's purpose
and intention. [See the examples above]
Sentences in the imperative, on the other hand, are generally complicated in transforming into the
passive: As for | (Do it!) | If it is necessary to put in the passive, The only possible correct way,

then, is (It is to be done!) <=> {It must be done (by you or by anybody else) } <=> [(Let it be
done!*) does not reflect the order in the imperative "Do it!"]

In (Do it!) the agent is defined and "S/he, they are the addressee(s). If The speaker (The
one who wants it to be done) doesn't want to appoint a specific person in a group for the
job, he may just say (It is to be done <> It must be done <> It has to be done no matter
who will do it!). In this case what interests the speaker most is the fact that S/He wants
the thing done; that's all!. He doesn't care much about the "He" or "she" who would do it.
I hope things are clear enough now!
TRANSITIVE or INTRANSITIVE verbs
As far as the sentences "He has been gone"* and "He has been rewarded". The verb to go
(gone) is different in grammar from the verb (reward) and other ones. I mean that the verb (go) is
intransitive whereas (reward) is transitive (it needs an object).

Examples

Part One: Normal sentences in the passive.


Ali has been rewarded. | Someone has rewarded Ali. (because Ali has
achieved a good work for instance)
Ali has been rescued. | Someone has rescued Ali. (because Ali was in
danger.)
He has been invited to a wedding party. | Someone has invited Ali to the
wedding party.
Ali has been spoken to. | Someone has spoken to Ali.
Ali has been sent a letter. | Someone has sent Ali a letter.
Ali has been understood. | We/They have understood Ali.

Part two: Now have a look at these examples for comparison:


o Ali has been gone.* (incorrect because there is no agent to make Ali (go). We
cannot say: Someone has gone Ali*. Do you think this has got meaning? No,
nothing! It is impossible.)
o Ali has been had.* (incorrect because this sentence is only a group of words put in
the syntactical form of the passive voice but conveys no meaning. Someone has
had Ali.* No, no, no!)
o Ali has been come.* (Intransitive verbs and some transitive ones as well cannot
make passive sentences; like : (go, be, have, come, become, leave, fly, etc)

Part three: Sentences which are grammatically correct and have meaning of some sort
but are hard to accept as correct sentences except in some specific contexts.
o Ali has been played. (Ali is not a game to play; we cannot say in the active form:
(Someone has played Ali*). Nevertheless; if "Ali" is written as shown (between
converted commas) to mean a name of a game, it's OK! but it is not sustainable.)
o Ali has been drunk. (Ali is not something to drink. The subject needs more
explanations so that it is taken for a drink.)
o Ali has been read. (Ali is not a book or a magazine. Yet Ali should be a famous
writer so that this sentence would have meaning. [Shakespeare has been widely
read]. It's OK because we mean the plays and poems Shakespeare wrote but not
his person. With Ali it is different because he is not known as a writer. And this
creates some ambiguity!)

Part Four: Ambiguous sentences


o Ali has been given something. | Someone has given Ali something.
o Ali has been given. | Someone has given Ali to someone else.
___________________________________________________________________________

Now I'd like you to put these sentences in the passive voice:
1. A car has run over my dog.
2. Somebody bought the last copy of the book yesterday.
3. Everybody thought he was crazy.
4. I send them to Paris.
5. People here say that tea is better for health than coffee.
Now this is how they look like after the transformation into the passive voice:
1. My dog has been run over by a car. {Normally (by a car) could be mentioned here on
purpose to stress the fact that it was not a bus or tractor but a car}.
2. The last copy of the book was bought yesterday.
3.
a. It was thought that he was crazy (*).
b. He was thought (to be) crazy.
4. They are sent to Paris.
5.
a. It is said here that tea is better for health than coffee. (*)
b. Tea is said, here, to be better for health than coffee.
It is said...
In the following part I will concentrate on the two sentences marked thus: (*) because the
others are somehow OK. You can see that it was only the consequence of lack of concentration
on your part. But the two sentences in question are misleading even for native speakers.
Have a look at this
Broadly speaking the passive voice is evoked only because the subject of the active is not
satisfying as a bearer of interesting significance for it is either vague or unknown. That's why the
use of the passive is compulsory to get rid of the burden of the subject that adds no interesting
information to the sentence in general.
Everybody thought he was crazy.
The subject in this sentence is vague: Who is this everybody?! Nobody knows. It represents the
majority of people. We should use the passive so as to get rid of it. It is not important at all
because we can say the same sentence with better meaning in the passive. Now those who use It
is/was as you did yourself don't really change anything. They only replaced a vague subject
Everybody by another vague subject notably the introductory It. This won't help!!!! Now
look at these sentences (one is yours) and compare yourself:
1. It was thought that he was crazy.
2. He was thought (to be) crazy.
According to you, which of the two looks more expressive?! (I think you should agree with me
that it is the second which is the best). Now let's skip to the next:
- People here say that tea is better than coffee for health.
Look at your passive sentence above (*). What's the problem with it? It changed the vague

10

subject "People" with another vague subject "It". Both of them are unidentified and unknown.
Now you see that it is a little bit redundant. If we transformed it into the passive this way, look:

Tea is said to be better than coffee for health. (OR)


Tea is said to be better for health than coffee.

What do you think? This is the best, isn't it? The subject is "Tea" which is part of the original
sentence. It is not vague... like "it", is it?
With phrasal verbs
Most of our students are misled when the action of the sentence is based on a verb +
preposition. They often forget about the preposition.
- Someone was looking at Ali.
- Ali was being looked at.
In the sentence above A car has run over my dog there's also a (verb + preposition)
which only when they are together that they mean what it is intended. In other words: when run
is alone as a verb it means something different from that it means when the preposition "over" is
joined to it (Check your dictionary). Its passive form is My dog has been run over. Dropping
the preposition is harmful to the meaning of the sentence. Most students drop the "preposition"
because they just cannot imagine that that preposition is part of the verb, thus (phrasal verb).
Direct and indirect objects
The principle which governs the transformation of an active sentence with two objects
into the passive form is to use the personal object your subject in the active sentence. e.g.
- He sent her a letter.
Here we have got the two underlined words in the sentence as indirect and direct objects. We can
use both of them as subjects of the passive sentence as follows:
1. She was sent a letter.
2. A letter was sent to her.
According to you which of the two is the best. You may have thought of the first as the best and
that's true. The rule says that a sentence with two objects the personal one (or the indirect subject
in this sentence) is the first to be used as subject of the passive sentence.
Put the following sentence in the passive voice:
ACTIVE VOICE:
PASSIVE VOICE:

Somebody showed the farmer the new tractor.


_______________________________________.

The personal object is the indirect object "the farmer" in this sentence. So it is more usual in
spoken as well as in written English to use it as subject of your passive sentence.
Have a look at the following sentence:
- Someone gave Dolly a box of rags.
1
2
Here you may think of two possibilities either you start with (1) or with (2) but the choice here is
vital:
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1. A box of rags was given to Dolly.


2. Dolly was given a box of rags.
In theory both are possible; yet the indirect object looks much more usual as the subject of the
passive verb. So the best and the most accurate one is unquestionably number 2.

Practice
- Choose the best answer
1. She is teaching us English on Saturdays.
a. English is being taught to us on Saturdays.
b. We are being taught English on Saturdays
2. He gave Leila all the books.
a. Leila was given all the books
b. All the books were given to Leila
3. Someone has taken the children to the circus.
a. The children have been taken to the circus.
b. The circus has been taken to.
4. The boy asked his mother embarrassing questions.
a. Embarrassing questions have been asked.
b. The mother was asked embarrassing questions.
5. Some Students are performing the new play at the local theatre.
a. The new play is being performed at the local theatre.
b. The local theatre is being performed at.
6. Someone sold this old hat to my wife.
a. This old hat was sold to my wife.
b. My wife was sold this old hat.
7. Someone introduced me to Leila's husband.
a. I was introduced to Leilas husband.
b. Leilas husband was introduced to!
8. People showed the lady the way to my house.
a. The way to my house was shown to the lady.
b. The lady was shown the way to my house.
9. Someone invited the governor to the children's party.
a. The governor was invited to the children's party.
b. The governor to the children's party was invited.
10. They handed the boy a prize and sent him to his parents.
a. A prize was handed to the boy and sent to his parents.
b. The boy was handed a prize and sent to his parents.
KEY (SEE BELOW)
12

The Progressive Tenses


I have chosen the continuous tenses, to talk about the transition from the active to the
passive forms in connection with the tenses of the sentences, to focus on the fact that the passive
of the past, present and future continuous is the least used among the other tenses because there's
some heaviness in using the continuous form of "to be", e.g.
Continuous Tenses.
1. Past continuous.
2. Present continuous.

Active Voice.
She was cooking a meal.
They are pushing the car.

Passive Voice.
A meal was being cooked.
The car is being pushed.

These tenses are avoided because they require the continuous form of to be as I mentioned
previously. Still other forms of the continuous passive form are rarely used. Here are examples:
Other Tenses
(A)
(B)
(C)
(D)

Active Voice
They will be selling the house.
She would be making cakes.
They have been selling a cow.
He had been singing a song.

Passive Voice
The house will be being sold.
Cakes would be being made.
A cow has been being sold.
A song had been being sung.

Thus, sentences in continuous sentences are somehow complicated to transform into the passive
that's why they are rarely used.
It's useless now, I think, to remind you that we are dealing with the transformation of "possible"
active sentences into the passive voice. I tried to show the limits of this transformation previously
in part I and no w I'll try to intensify your awareness of the fact that not all active sentences are
automatically convertible into the passive voice and not all passive sentences have the same
rules. There still are things we didn't talk about fully. Let's present them this way:

The use of Prepositions


Rare are those among our students who notice the preposition in a sentence when putting
it in the passive form. As I have mentioned this common mistake before, I'll only manage to
show, through examples, how things should be mended in cases as such:
Active Sentence
They have spoken to me.
Someone broke into my office.
They threw the empty bottles away.
Somebody is looking for you.
They were talking about you.
Everyone listened to the new song.

Passive Sentence
I have been spoken to.
My office was broken into.
The empty bottles were thrown away.
You are being looked for.
You were being talked about.
The new song was listened to.*

As you can see, all the prepositions are given a place in the passive sentences. Imagine those
passive sentences void of prepositions! Their true meaning will be completely lost, I'm afraid!

The Passive Infinitive

13

There isn't really much to say here except for what you already know notably the verb
after a modal or auxiliary is always in the infinitive without "to". In other words: (Auxiliary +
infinitive combinations) are made passive by using a passive infinitive. To illustrate this, we may
put it this way:
[MODAL / AUXILARY + BE + Past Participle]
Now here is some practice for you:
Active Voice construction
You can do it.
You must respect the law.
They will contact you.
They would arrest him.
Somebody might see the little boy.
Someone may repair the car.
You ought to clean the desk.
Someone is going to discover the error.
etc.

Passive Voice construction


It can be done
The law must be respected.
You will be contacted.
He would be arrested.
The little boy might be seen.
The car may be repaired.
The desk ought to be cleaned.
The error is going to be discovered.

EXERCISE
Put the following sentences in the passive voice:

They kicked him out.


They have to see the film.
He must have cut off his finger.
They could visit the temple today.
She used to call him "Pit".
They could see the lady stealing food.

The Interrogative Passive


Questions also are sometimes exposed to transformation when necessary. They respect the
same rules. When the agent is not important to mention, it's better to speak or write your
questions in the passive.
Here are some examples:
- What must we do about this?
- What questions did they ask?
- Did they tell her the story?
- Has anyone dusted that blackboard yet?
- Will anyone tell him about the test?

- What must be done about this?


- What questions were asked?
- Was she told the story?
- Has that blackboard been dusted yet?
- Will he be told about the test?

Like affirmative sentences the interrogative ones are transformed in the way that (be) is present
to accomplish the operation.

The negative and intero-negative passive


If the above explanations were clear enough for you, any other explanations will be
useless except for something very important about the negative sentences I'd like to tell you.
Look at this:

14

- My sister did not cook that meal.


In this sentence the underlined "not" is shown and you can see that the sentence is obviously
negative. In cases where the "not" appears in the sentence, you only have to be careful about the
tense of the passive verb while reconstructing your sentence. Here is it in the passive voice: That
meal was not cooked by my sister. The "not" is transported to the passive sentence as you have
been shown previously. Why did I mention this? It is simply because, in some other negative
sentences, the "not" cannot be noticed because of its camouflage. Look!
-Nobody can read your handwriting.
This sentence looks affirmative because the phrase can read doesn't look negative because, once
again, the word "not" doesn't appear in the sentence and the verb "read" is not preceded by
(auxiliary + not) as we normally expect a sentence in the negative form to be; but still the
sentence is negative. This form often misleads our students because they cannot notice that the
subject carries the negative element in the sentence: Nobody ... Thus the sentence in the passive
should be as follows:
- Your handwriting can not be read.
And this one, too:
- Didn't they allow you to go in?
This sentence is both negative and interrogative in one. You have to think about how it will look
like in the passive voice. O.K! Let's do that together!
Weren't you allowed to go in?

EXERCISE
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Put the following sentences in the passive voice:


Where did they park the car?
No one has given out the news yet.
Must not we do the quiz?
Have you already done it?
Doesn't she tell you the truth?
No one has broken the window.

More than one passive


Two Passives
Some compound or complex sentences can bear more than one passive voice. In
written English the passive is used to save the changing of the subject of a clause sequence. The
passive is concise in expressing long winding sentences. We'll come back to this important
mechanism lately but now, let's try first with a sentence made of two passives:
They had stolen all the gold before they set fire to the shop.
(1)
(2)
If we managed to put the two sentences in the passive voice separately; what would this
manoeuvre come out with?!

15

(1) The gold had all been stolen.


(2) Fire was set to the shop.
Now let's join them together with the linker before which was already given in the active form.
Our new compound passive sentence is this:
The gold had all been stolen before fire was set to the shop.
(1)
(2)

Three Passives
What about a complex sentence with three passives, for instance? This is an example:
-Nobody would have asked him his identity card if they had told him what places he had to ovoid.
(1)
(2)
(3)
-He wouldn't have been asked his identity card if he had been told what places had to be avoided.
(1)
(2)
(3)
In this example the sentence contains three passive operational parts which should be handled
carefully. The complication resides in finding the object in each part of the active sentence which
allows the transformation to be done safely. You have to bear in mind that operations as such are
more delicate and dangerous for the meaning if things weren't perceived from different angles.
Needless to repeat here that the possibility to put one clause (part) in the passive doesn't
automatically allow you to do the same for the rest except if they hold the elements necessary for
the transition to the passive. Let's do this example for more practice:
- It must have shocked him that his boss informed him that she no longer appreciated his work style.
(1)
(2)
(3)
- He must have been shocked to be informed that his work style was no longer appreciated.
(1)
(2)
(3)
The importance, in priority, is for the meaning rather than for the form. Is the sentence in the
passive greatly reflects its original copy in the active form?! That's what counts the most. Yet this
importance would never be reachable but on condition that the grammatical syntactic structure of
the passive sentence is irreproachable.

Complex Sentences
If we talked a little bit now about the mechanism of making long winding active
sentences short and expressive concisely thanks to the passive voice? This is how the passive
works effectively for the language is good when it expresses a lot of information in a few words.
This is the job of the passive in sentences like the following. Compare:
(1) The police arrested him. They questioned him about the charges against him, which he denied firmly.
(2) He was arrested, questioned about the charges against him and denied them all firmly.

Verb + Adverb Combination

16

The order of words in the passive respects the original order used in the active sentence
except for the placement of the adverb of manner. Look at these examples and notice the
placements of the adverbs of manner:
They talked about the boy proudly.
They understood him well.
They advised her to treat the children kindly.
He was driving the car carelessly.

The boy was proudly talked about.


He was well understood.
She was advised to kindly treat the children.
The car was being carelessly driven.

There are a lot of other details about sentences in the passive voice. I think it's better to deal with
them in a general review of what has been stated above.

Distinguishing the Active from the Passive voice.


The simple active sentence is normally a [SUBJECT + VERB + OBJECT] e.g.
Someone uses this computer.
As you see, SOMEONE is the "agent" or the "doer" who uses the computer. But because it adds
no information to the sentence as it could be anyone. In this case we'd better omit it using the
PASSIVE FORM:
"This computer is used.
The speaker here is not interested in the WHO uses the computer but rather in the action itself,
i.e. in the fact that the computer is used no matter who uses it.
In order to be able to rightly decide if a given sentence is active or passive, you have to look for
the doer. If the doer - who does (or is doing or has done or did or was doing or will do ...) the
action - is at the beginning, then the sentence is ACTIVE. If the doer is absent or is preceded by
"by" at the end of the sentence, the sentence is in the PASSIVE voice. With practice you will
never be in need of such explanations, you can do them yourself; i.e. you'll be a doer yourself.

Practice:
Which of the following sentences are Active and which are passive? Circle the correct answer
1. Jennifer looked for her grandfather.

Active

Passive

2. The grandfather was out looking for food.

Active

Passive

3. Was she really worried about his absence?

Active

Passive

4. The old man might be taken to hospital.

Active

Passive

5. He ought to have eaten too much.


Passive

Active

6. He could have been kicked out of a restaurant.

Active

Passive

7. He was extremely hungry and cold.

Active

Passive

17

8. Old people have to be taken care of.

Active

Passive

9. Jennifer should not let him need anything.

Active

Passive

10. My parents have always been well looked after.

Active

Passive

11. Jennifer has to be more careful.

Active

Passive

12. Grandparents have more experience than we have.

Active

Passive

13. We are taught their past in our schools.

Active

Passive

14. The old people are often mistreated.

Active

Passive

15. Leila likes to keep her grandmother company.

Active

Passive

16. We like to listen to their amusing long stories.

Active

Passive

17. Old people used to be young once.

Active

Passive

18. They tried to make life easier and peaceful for us.

Active

Passive

19. They have to be given much attention.

Active

Passive

20. The children will become old people in few years time.

Active

Passive

__

Operating on the diseased passive voice constructions

Epilogue
'More than enough is too much.'

This is true for everything. The


passive voice cannot be an exception. When some students are transforming sentences into the
passive voice, they do it to the least trivial modification. Some web-sites even incite the students
to do the transformation from the active voice to the passive voice mechanical. They meant to
show them every little detail concerning the transformation, but they forget that more than
enough is most of the time hurting.
ACTIVE: Joe eats an apple.
PASSIVE: An apple is eaten by Joe.*
What is authentic or natural about the second sentence? The students should be made aware that
not all sentences in the active voice (Subject + verb + object) automatically go passive (Object +
[be + participial] + [by + agent]). There are borders that one mustnt transgress otherwise the
language becomes rigid and communicatively sterile.
- The Smiths sold the house.
This sentence according to mechanicals is to be transformed into the passive voice this way:
- The house was sold by the Smiths.*
18

Whereas the sentences will make a gigantic difference if done the most appropriate way,
- The smiths house was sold.
Other anomalies, that the preachers of mechanical transforming dont notice, are the fact that
some students may apply the rule to all sorts of sentences provided that they have got an object.
The sentences, once put in the passive voice, become awkward, meaningless and even stupid.
Scrutinize this one.
- I read Hamlet.
According to the rule, the sentence transformed becomes,
- Hamlet was read by me.*
This is absolutely unacceptable. In natural English this utterance seems indigestible on the whole.
Take the other one,
- Ali likes chips.
This is another anomaly. The mechanical reconstruction of the sentence gives us a weird meaning
that the English tuned ear rejects categorically.
- Chips are liked by Ali.*
Some sentences are healthier in the active voice why then damage them by changing their
constructions into the passive voice?!
- Someone gave my daughter a cookie.
Without hesitation the students hurry to take A cookie as subject and their sentence looks
something like this
- A cookie was given to my daughter by someone.*
Lets operate on this sentence right now. The first thing that strikes us is the tumour by
someone that impedes the body of the sentence to act freely and normally as an accurate sane
sentence. What more information does the phrase by someone adds to the meaning of the
sentence?! It is a burden and has to be removed. Next:
- A cookie was given to my daughter.*
In natural English when there are two objects in the sentence, notably the direct and the indirect
objects; it is usually the PERSONAL one that goes for the subject of the passive voice
construction. The next anomaly is this and the correction will look like this:
- My daughter was given a cookie.

19

I guess the obsession to just transform any active sentence into the passive voice becomes a
threatening disease. The more it is ignored, the worse it develops. A simple surgery operation will
render the blood in the vein of the dying sentence.
Before we go to the operation block, lets first stress the fact that some attractive wellbuilt active sentences will simply become disabled or carcass once they are turned into the
passive switch. So, lets bear in mind that not all the sentences in the active voice go
automatically passive; it generally is fatale. Moreover, it is not the active that gives birth to the
passive voice. The passive voice form has a completely independent identity.

At the Surgery Office


- "The cat ate my sandwich.
This sentence openly says that the cat is the criminal that commits the transgression. It says the
cat is the suspect number one. It plainly accuses the cat of eating the sandwich. This accusation is
normally based on two things or on at least one
1. Ocular witness: Someone saw the cat eating the sandwich.
2. Logical interpretation of events or cautious investigations:
There was no one else in the kitchen (where my sandwich was) except for the cat.
Its paws imprints were fresh on the table where the poor sandwich lies peacefully.
Any other indication that accuses the cat with solid proof.
But if it happened that I couldnt prove anything about the implication of the cat in the eating of
my poor sandwich or that the cat had nothing to do with the crime at all, Id prefer to express
what troubles me the most notably the fact that,
- My sandwich was eaten.
I mean that my concentration, in my wrath, goes on the fact that my sandwich was massacred
regardless, of course, of who did it. I cannot but show my deep fury about what happened to my
sandwich. The agent, be it the cat, the dog, the boys, the girls, the Satan, doesnt interest me so
why mention it at all. What counts, after all, is not who ate the sandwich; it is the very truth that
it was eaten by someone else that counts most for me.
The agent or the doer in a passive voice sentence is generally ignored because we are not
interested in who does the action but rather in the action itself regardless of who does it.
According to me, when I choose to use the passive voice, I decide to hide or not to mention the
doer or the agent. Normally this is so because I dont know the doer of the action or that the
action is what matters for me most, or the doer is not worth mentioning for it adds no important
information to my utterance, or eventually because I dont want to unveil the identity of the
agent. In our sandwich case, I chose to use the passive voice because I dont want to hurriedly
accuse anyone of committing the infraction of eating a sandwich that is not destined to him, her
or it.
Many students prefer to mention the agent at the end using the preposition by. I
personally dont recognize this except for special cases well talk about later on. The use of the
agent at the end of the sentence preceded by by is too much demanding for both the listener
and the utterance itself; as it may end up in a superfluous style. If in my case I were sure the cat
was the doer, my sentence would sound this way:

20

- My sandwich was eaten by the cat.


This is really hard to admit as expressive natural language. Now compare it to the following:
- The cat ate my sandwich.
This one, as you see, is more natural, economical and very clear. The active verb makes the
sentence livelier and easily assimilated as well as meaning bearer.

The inevitability of the agent after by.


Before we can take the risk of omitting by + agent phrase after very passive form of the
sentence, we have to take into consideration many factors.
First, we have to make sure that the agent is not really that important. Besides this we
have to be aware that not all agents in passive sentences are optional.
Second, if the agent is the only one responsible for the action, it should be mentioned as it
is in the active form.
- Edison invented the gramophone.
Nobody else but Edison discovered the theory that makes the gramophone feasible so he and
only he was the inventor. In the passive voice, Edison mustnt be ignored or overlooked as he is
as important to the meaning of the sentence as the action itself is. Thus,
- The gramophone was invented by Edison.
Though the second sentence is too winding for an perfect natural sentence, it is compulsory to
use by + agent at the end because the doer is special. Nevertheless the active from is the most
suitable in cases where the agent is so important that it must be mentioned.
Third, it is not only the preposition by that works in all circumstances. Look at this one
for instance,
- Snow filled the garden.
This sentence is in the active voice. The agent is snow. If it was to be put in the passive, it
would have to be treated this way,
- The garden was filled.*
This sentence is not complete thus it is inaccurate because it lucks significant information that
only the agent can provide. Here we cannot ignore the agent at any rate as it is as imperative as
the action itself. We should mention the doer but not by using the phrase, by snow. The
preposition, by here doesnt work. Its not right; we should use the preposition, with instead.
Therefore the accurate form of the sentence goes like this,
- The garden was filled with snow.

Diagnosis results

21

We can logically deduce that when the agent does the action deliberately, the preposition
by is to be used, but when the agent is forced to do the action or was not responsible for doing
it, it is preferable if not compulsory to use the preposition with.
- The house walls were painted by an outstanding artist.
The outstanding artist did the painting on purpose, not by accident.
- The house walls were covered with mud.
The mud didnt deliberately cover the walls but it was forced to do so. I mean by accident. This
however is not a rule yet it works as such.
Contemplate this example,
- A knife cut the bread.
In relation with what we have been discussing previously, what preposition is more suitable in
this case, by or with to refer to the doer?
I guess it is with that works perfectly here because the one who broke the bread is not the
knife, but it is the person who uses the knife to break the bread. Thus, the knife, which really
broke the bread, didnt do it deliberately but it was forced to do so. Consequently, the passive
sentence is this,
- The bread was cut with a knife.
Well, what do you say about the following,
- The woman cut the bread.
Here, unlike the agent in the first sentence, the doer did it purposely or perhaps premeditatedly.
The woman, if we have to mention her, we obligatory should introduce her by using the
preposition by not with as we did with the knife sentence.
- The bread was cut by the woman.

All depends on what we want to say.


There are always two approaches that govern our speech vis--vis using the passive or the
active voices. What we know and what we want to say are two different things. And they are
what directs us either towards pronouncing our piece of information in terms of I am not sure
who, but what happened is this.... or towards uttering our statement in terms of the know
who!. The first may say for instance:
- The vase was broken.
Here the speaker uses the passive voice because he doesnt know who broke the vase or he wants
to keep that piece of information for him. Another supposition is that he was the doer but he
cannot decide who it was, the cat, the parrot or the dog. In all cases, the speaker doesnt want to
bother himself with who did the action since the action is what matters most.

22

The other approach, however, is that of the one who seeks for the doer in order to be
punished. He would either pronounce it this way,
- The parrot broke the vase.
Or this way,
- The vase was broken by the parrot.
In both uses, the speaker unveils the villain and insists on accusing it. In order to be able to say it
this way, the speaker must have seen the doer, the parrot, otherwise, his declaration is pure
defamation. On the other hand, it would be preferable for him to announce the statement in the
active form as he has no reason to keep the divulging of the doer to the end. So the first statement
is the most suitable one. The second one, however, can be justified. The speaker wants to draw
attention to the fact that it is the parrot which broke the vase not anyone else. Using the statement
- The vase was broken by the parrot.
I guess it would be suitable, if it is necessary to mention the agent, to use the active form. The
active voice is more economical and the agent the villain - has not to be masked.
- The parrot broke the vase.
On the other hand, the statement in the passive voice pours more ink and says almost the same
thing but with missing information provided that by + agent is detrimental in natural language,
- The vase was broken.
Nevertheless, if the agent is to be mentioned the sentence gets even longer.
- The vase was broken by the parrot.
Because we have an idea about who the doer is; and we got sure it was the parrot, not the cat, in
this case it is advisable to use the active voice as it is more expressive, more active and more
accurate in the end.
___________________________________________________________________________

KEY
Key to the exercise on page 4 1. Your last book was admired.
2. The door is being knocked at.
3. A car has been stolen.
23

4. We were bought sandwiches.


5. The exam-papers are handed out.
6. You will be shown my house.
7. The lorry could be repaired.
8. The floor is being swept.
9. The law must be respected.
10. English is spoken all over the world.
11. He has been made a headmaster.
12. The bank was broken into.
13. I was sent a beautiful card.
14. All the exercises should be done.
15. My children are being looked after.
16. Your son was being told never to ride that bike.
17. The letter has been being typed.

KEY to the exercise on pages 17 - 18


1. Jennifer looked for her grandfather.

Active

2. The grandfather was out looking for food.

Active Passive

3. Was she really worried about his absence?

Active Passive

4. The old man might be taken to hospital.

Active

5. He ought to have eaten too much.

Passive

Passive
Active Passive

6. He could have been kicked out of a restaurant.

Active

Passive

7. He was extremely hungry and cold.

Active Passive

8. Old people have to be taken care of.

Active

9. Jennifer should not let him need anything.

Active Passive

10. My parents have always been well looked after.

Active

Passive

11. Jennifer has to be more careful.

Active

Passive

12. Grandparents have more experience than we have.

Active Passive

13. We are taught their past in our schools.

Active

Passive

14. The old people are often mistreated.

Active

Passive

15. Leila likes to keep her grandmother company.

Active Passive

16. We like to listen to their amusing long stories.

Active Passive

17. Old people used to be young once.

Active Passive

Passive

24

18. They tried to make life easier and peaceful for us.

Active Passive

19. They have to be given much attention.

Active

20. The children will become old people in few years time.

Active Passive

Passive

Key to the exercise on pages (12) and (13)


1. She is teaching us English on Saturdays.
b. We are being taught English on Saturdays
2. He gave Leila all the books.
a. Leila was given all the books
3. Someone has taken the children to the circus.
a. The children have been taken to the circus.
4. The boy asked his mother embarrassing questions.
b. The mother was asked embarrassing questions.
5. Some Students are performing the new play at the local theatre.
a. The new play is being performed at the local theatre.
6. Someone sold this old hat to my wife.
b. My wife was sold this old hat.
7. Someone introduced me to Leila's husband.
a. I was introduced to Leilas husband.
8. People showed the lady the way to my house.
b. The lady was shown the way to my house.
9. Someone invited the governor to the children's party.
a. The governor was invited to the children's party.
10. They handed the boy a prize and sent him to his parents.
b. The boy was handed a prize and sent to his parents.

IN WRITING...

Why should I avoid the passive voice?


Introduction

25

Many teachers are not resolute vis--vis the question of using the passive voice in writing.
Most of them even avoid mentioning the passive voice style while teaching writing. This is either
because they regard it as a minor issue and argue that there are other focal things in writing
which disserve much more concentration, or because they wouldnt like their students to be
politicians for the reason that politicians are said to be known for the excessive use of this dead
style.
Still, there are teachers who advise their students to avoid using the passive voice while
writing because they deem it is redundant and bulk. Nonetheless, they keep silent about the why
not? To my mind, they would at least let them know that this self-imposing style on the students
is confusing and message breaking down when the reader cannot decide who did what?! It brings
about ambiguity and misunderstanding.
Active Vs Passive Voices
Now, lets verify to what extent the advice is worth taking. I actually dont contest that the
passive voice is sometimes indigestible being a heavy and information hiding style; yet I am
objecting on the over-generalization only. The problem lies in the fact that the passive voice is
very often irreplaceable. If our students believed, this way, that the passive voice in writing is a
fatal misuse of the language, they would try to wipe it out; which is not quite a wise initiative for
the fruitfulness, the imaginativeness and the flexibility of the language styles.
It is true that all verbs are normally active and they should always be so. When the
sentence is active, it is the subject which performs the action; whereas in the passive sentence,
the subject receives the action and this creates some bewilderment for the readers as they miss
important information, notably the agent who did the action:
Examples

The cat ate my sandwich. (Active)

Here the subject is the doer or the agent "the cat". It is the cat thus who performs the action of
eating. The sentence is active and lively and more informative. There is no ambiguity and the
reader wont be wondering who did what?!
On the contrary,

My sandwich was eaten by the cat. (Passive)

With this sentence we prefer to focus on the fact that the sandwich was eaten and the doer
is of a secondary role in our attitude towards the situation. Here the doer is not so important to
talk about initially why then mention it. This is to be avoided, sure. It is the sandwich in this
sentence which is the subject but it is not the doer. It doesnt perform the action. It rather receives
it. And here is all the most disturbing point about this discrepancy and the weakness of the
passive voice as clear meaning bearer.
Comments
This sentence is really awkward and less inspiring because the doer is there but it is not
given the right function or place in the utterance. "My sandwich was eaten" is far more
expressive no matter who did that. With this sentence I mean to show that I am not interested in

26

who ate my sandwich. On the contrary my focus goes on the fact that it was eaten no matter who
did it.
The mentioning of the doer in a passive sentence is not recommended only but in some
very few special cases such as "Electricity was discovered by Edison" otherwise the statement
looks too wordy and dead as an informative. This is therefore what I want the teachers to explain
to the students so as not to be suspicious about the ability of the nice problem solving rich
passive voice to create and highlight meaning.
Recapitulation:
If the doer is known, it is recommended to use the active voice. "X did Y". But suppose
the "X" is unknown, unidentified or irrelevant i.e. not worth mentioning. In this case the most
fitting style however is the passive voice, "Y was done" by the "X" which I cannot name for one
of the previously mentioned reasons. Therefore, if "the cat" was surely the doer, it would be
required to use the active form. However, if the doer is unknown to me (like someone, people
etc) or all that matters for me is the fact that my sandwich was eaten no matter who did the
action, it would be suitable and wise to use the passive voice but without "by the cat".
Id like to make it graspable from this point that we should always be equitable in our
approaches. Both active and passive voices are tools to express ideas the clearest and the easiest
way. So lets start with the toughest question ever:

Why should I avoid the passive voice?


Why should the passive voice be avoided? (By all of us)

First we must decide which passive voice we are talking about. There are cases in which
using the passive voice is inappropriate and almost dim. I mean the cases in which the agent is
there, effective, relevant and has to be mentioned:
1. Marias skin damage is being examined by a professional aesthetician.*
2. A professional aesthetician is examining Marias skin damage.
In cases as such the passive voice would be worse as a style choice. It would look wordy,
rambling and redundant. Look at example one, it is almost ridiculous. The second sentence,
however, is more authentic and natural. This is perfectly what works well and this is what I am
trying to say. Using the passive voice should be used in writing but appropriately. There are
situations in which only the passive voice is the master.
1. Many of our projects have been sabotaged.
2. The manager has sabotaged many of our projects.
In the first sentence the speaker didnt mention the doer so as to avoid troubles by intentionally
avoiding talking about the responsible for the sabotage. Opposing to this, the second sentence
speaks plainly about the actor behind the sabotage. All in all passive voice statements do not
naturally lead to untrustworthiness or hiding information, but it is much more difficult, when you
use the active voice, to avoid mentioning the doer.
Politicians style:

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Politicians are known for their excessive use of the passive voice and there surely is a
reason for that. Perhaps they want to hide some information or just they want to be less explicit.
But this doesnt mean if they used the active voice, they wouldnt be real politicians or theyd be
more explicit. This is totally relative if not wrong.
The passive voice is not the only style which can hide, more than clearly display,
important information. The active voice can do better.
STUDY THESE STATEMENTS:

1. "We were told by some reliable people that water in this region is not contaminated". *
2. "It was proven by our laboratories reports that water in this region is clean". *
3. "Water in this region is said to be the purest in the country". *
As you may notice; these statements are wordy which proves that sometimes, the passive voice
use is pure mockery and a waste of time, effort and information. Since we are talking about water
as a vital substance why not name precisely who told, who proved, who said. I mean the real
doers or performers of the action. Those tellers and reporters have to be mentioned initially as
they are more important that the topic in question. It is the public who will decide if the doers are
trustful or not. In this case, suppose we want to convert the passive voice into the active voice
can gain some amelioration of the style.
COMPARE THEM WITH THESE

1. "Some reliable people told us that water in this region is not contaminated".
2. "Our laboratories proved that water in this region is clean".
3. "People say that water in this region is the purest in the country".
Here, the active voice is used to set right the defiance of the passive voice but in vain.
There is no evidence here that the active voice is any better. There is no difference between
passive and active voices as long as both styles hide the same major required information. It is
the specification and straightforwardness that characterize the active voice. If it cannot shoulder
it, let the passive voice do the task more beautifully and more imaginatively.
1. "We were told that water in this region is not contaminated".
2. "It was proven that water in this region is clean".
3. "Water in this region is said to be the purest in the country".
I believe that the passive voice here is the most suitable style because of many reasons;
one of which notably is that "laboratory reports are usually written in the passive voice".
Story telling style:
We should also acknowledge to the passive voice the craft of breathtaking suspense
heightening when the readers are attracted to be involved to make some interpretation effort
while reading a story. The readers are more involved when you bombarded them with ambiguous
but well designed and rightly built statements. They would accept the challenge and follow you
to eventually find out "who did what".

"It was a chilly winter midnight when the window pane was broken and some foot steps were
heard in the corridor".
"Three women were killed in the grimy village motel during the night".

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"A sharp shriek was heard in the vicinity".


"Many of those precious paintings were stolen from the gallery".

If the novice writers want to venture with this, they should be failure complex immune because
the perfect use of such style is always achieved after an accumulation of a series of unsuccessful
experiences.
Conclusion
Generally even in bad styles we have to choose the best. I mean the less bad. The
passive voice here in incontestably the best. Therefore the accusation against the passive voice as
a dissimulator of information or as a superfluous style in this case has to be taken back. There
should always be taken for fact that the best style is the one which carries the appropriate
meaning in the appropriate way.
On the whole, be it active or passive, it is the situation or the expression which dictates
the right speech. I dare not advise anybody anything for fear they should miss the beauty and
robustness of both the active and the passive voices when they are used as it should be.
Abdessalami On_Line
http://us.geocities.com/voice_passive/

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